Sleepless nights | 

Jolene Bunting says she was ‘intimidated out of home’ over Britain First payslip scandal

‘I went to the Housing Executive about it and asked to be moved, but I didn’t have enough intimidation points’

Former Belfast city councillor Jolene Bunting© Niall Carson

Jolene Bunting (left) and Jayda Fransen

Paul Golding

Jolene Bunting

John TonerSunday Life

Defiant Jolene Bunting has insisted she will fight her ban from public office over a doctored payslip.

The disgraced former Belfast City councillor was banned from standing for election for three years last week after a local government watchdog ruled she had altered a payslip for financial gain.

The Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards said she had doctored the document to gain financially from former Britain First leader Paul Golding.

Ms Bunting rejected the commissioner’s ruling and said she would fight to clear her name.

She said: “I don’t accept it, no. I knew it was coming, I’ve been saying for years that they were going to ban me. I just didn’t realise it would be over something like this.

“I’m still dealing with another case which I was suspended for and which pre-dates this issue.

“I find it strange that this has been dealt with first, but I’m not surprised. My solicitor and I actually called this outcome beforehand.

“I’m obviously disappointed. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but I will be appealing.

“The legal papers are already in, and my legal team still needs to discuss it, but there will be an appeal and maybe further legal action.”

Jolene Bunting (left) and Jayda Fransen

She was sanctioned last week over an attempt to claim cash from Britain First in January 2018.

The party sent her money over allegations she had been “fined” by Belfast City Council for a video stunt involving former deputy leader Jayda Fransen.

Fransen sat in the mayor’s chair and donned mayoral robes during the incident, which caused outrage at the time.

Ms Bunting, a former TUV and then independent unionist councillor, facilitated the filming of Ms Fransen and later told Britain First she had been fined.

However, a watchdog hearing was told a £545.38 deduction in Ms Bunting’s council pay was actually because she had exceeded the data allowance on her mobile phone.

Britain First leader Paul Golding made a complaint over the affair to the local government standards watchdog, with the matter finally being dealt with last week.

Jolene Bunting

Ms Bunting said she had been forced to move house over the case and has had sleepless nights as a result.

“I’ve been intimidated out of my home. There were people hanging around outside my house. I called police several times about it,” she added.

“I was followed while taking my two children to school, and I was so shaken I had to call them again, and now I’ve been forced to move.

“I went to the Housing Executive about it and asked to be moved, but I didn’t have enough intimidation points.

“A few weeks later, they called me to say they had been made aware of my circumstances and agreed to move me.

“It took about a month or two, but I have now moved.

“It was very stressful for us as a family. I have little ones and it caused me so much anxiety I couldn’t sleep. It was a lot for us to go through, so when we moved, it was a relief.”

Paul Golding

At an adjudication hearing in Belfast last week, the local government watchdog ruled Ms Bunting had “improperly used her position to secure financial advantage”.

It said it was “satisfied that the respondent’s alteration of her payslip” and her surrounding discussions with Mr Golding had brought her position as a councillor into disrepute.

Ms Bunting was elected in 2014 as a TUV candidate but left the party in 2017 and continued at City Hall as an independent until she lost her seat in 2019. She did not attend the hearing.

In earlier interviews with investigators, she rejected Mr Golding’s allegations and denied doctoring the payslip.

In a lengthy statement issued after the proceedings, Ms Bunting described it as a “vexatious case”.

She said: “I have many regrets about associating with this man, and many friends and family warned me not to get involved.”

The former councillor said she had “never been disingenuous or dishonest in any way towards Mr Golding”.

She added: “As far as I was concerned, Mr Golding had loaned me this money.”

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Golding said he now intended to report the matter to the PSNI.

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